Original film title in Malay: Hati Iblis
Literal English translation of film title: Devil’s Heart, or Devilish Hearts
Directed by K. M. Basker
Written by K. M. Basker (story)
Starring: Ali Rahman, Aini Hayati, Jamil Sulong
Produced by Malay Film Productions (Shaw Bros.)
Union Building (Collyer Quay) and Fullerton Square
Victoria Memorial Hall
Gemmill Drinking Fountain
Alkaff Gardens and Lake
Bukit Timah Railway Station
Aini (Aini Hayati) is left to fend for herself after her father passed away from sickness. She finds employment as a maid for a nasty woman, who seems to be in a persistently vengeful mood and showers her with verbal and physical abuse. (It often gets so violent, we think she ought to be charged and penalised for it…) Rather coincidentally, Aini’s boyfriend Ramlan (Ali Rahman) happens to be the brother-in-law of the abusive employer. Aini confides her sorrows to Ramlan, who clearly identifies with her grim view of life, being unemployed and in a pretty forlorn state himself. Nonetheless, Ramlan is from a middle-class background (he lives with his elder brother and sister-in-law in ‘landed property’), and his proposal to marry Aini, who is considered socially inferior, is met with outright disapproval.
After some reflection (he has vowed to take good of his younger sibling at his father’s deathbed), Ramlan’s brother agrees to the marriage. Soon after, Aini bears a child, and Ramlan feels obliged to be seek gainful employment to better support his family. He travels to Singapore to find work, trying his luck in Collyer Quay, the commercial heart of the thriving colony. But pitiless Singapore is no place for a downcast man. Without success, he leaves the Union Building, and roams about Fullerton Square. Initially landing in Singapore wearing a suit jacket, he is eventually reduced to a tattered undershirt, all weary and defeated while seated at the foot of Stamford Raffles’ copper statue (which strikes a confident pose) in front of the Victoria Memorial Hall. There, he also attempts a sip from the near-empty marble basin of the Gemmill Fountain, which is similarly in a sorry and forsaken state. Things only begin to look up when Ramlan chances upon a sprightly group of revelers at the Alkaff Gardens and Lake. Their positive outlook (they happily sing and dance around campfires even in the heat of the day) lifts Ramlan and soon, he is given a job through an old friend’s family. Back in the village, Aini cannot stand the onslaught of abuse and abandon any longer and leaves home with her child to live in the open near the Bukit Timah Railway Station, bearing little hope that Ramlan will ever return to help her out of her predicament.
Designed and built in 1923-4 by the eminent architectural firm Swan & McLaren, the neo-classical (or neo Baroque) Union Building was one in a line of colonial office buildings situated along the Collyer Quay waterfront, once dubbed the “Singapore Bund” (in a reference to the one, still existing, in Shanghai; we last saw a movie representation of the ‘Singapore Bund’ in 1932’s Bring ‘Em Back Alive). These buildings formed the iconic skyline of colonial Singapore up until the late 1970s, when they made way for urban renewal and modern skyscrapers. The Union Building was demolished in 1981 and replaced by the Tung Centre.
The Gemmill Fountain, a public drinking fountain, was originally constructed at Raffles Place in 1864 with a donation from Mr. John Gemmill, who made it good in Singapore during the mid 19th century. It was found in a Municipal store in 1923 and re-installed at Empress Place in front of the Victoria Memorial Hall. The water used to run from a carved lion’s head, but it was reportedly vandalized during the Japanese Occupation. The fountain was relocated to the National Museum in 1967 and stood half-abandoned in the museum grounds. It was later kept in the Heritage Conservation Centre until it was given due restoration with a new spout in 2010 (with support from the Lee Foundation). The fountain now takes its place back in the redeveloped museum, albeit in a rather neglected corner behind the left wing of the main building.
1. ‘Notes of the Day – The Fountain’. The Straits Times, 15 May 1939, p. 10.
2. ‘A Bygone Singapore European’. The Straits Times, 8 June 1950, p. 12.
3. ‘Gemmill’s fountain’. The Straits Times, 21 February 1970, p. 14.
4. ‘Fountain that didn’t quench Jamal’s thirst’. The Straits Times, 13 October 1974, p. 9.
5. Collyer Quay. Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2005.
6. Fullerton Square. Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2005.
7. Alkaff Lake Gardens. Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2004.
8. Bukit Timah Railway Station. Singapore Infopedia. National Library Board, 2013.
9. Amir Muhammad, 120 Malay Movies (pp. 75-77). Petaling Jaya: Matahari Books, 2010.
© 1953 Malay Film Productions
© 2003 Music Valley
Digital Map Source:
Great Britain. Royal Air Force, Singapore photomap, National Library of Australia, MAP G8041.A4 s6 1950. [http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-vn502375]
© 2013, 2014 Toh Hun Ping